Barack Obama: World's Worst Negotiator

by: Glenn Hurowitz

Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 13:09

(Glenn is a brilliant emerging star in the progressive movement, and his judgment is worth strong consideration. - promoted by Matt Stoller)

On Tuesday, Barack Obama announced his support for President Bush's bid to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement to Peru.

Yup - Obama is once again helping pass one of President Bush's top priorities - even as Bush blocks the entire Democratic agenda and daily rains rhetorical abuse down on Democratic heads. Is this how Obama is going to negotiate in the White House?

Glenn Hurowitz :: Barack Obama: World's Worst Negotiator
I don't know for sure if Obama honestly felt that the Peru Free Trade Agreement was, on balance, the right thing to do, or whether he just wanted to curry favor with the major corporations whose financial support is fueling his campaign. It's probably a little of both. Some Democrats have argued, for instance, that even though the Peru FTA's environmental and labor protections are weak and that the pact could result in significant job losses and deforestation, the fact that there are any protections at all is a step in the right direction and that it could produce modest economic growth.

But I don't think even Obama would argue that passing this highly flawed agreement should be more of a priority than tackling the climate crisis, ending the war in Iraq, protecting civil liberties, or expanding health care - all core elements of the Democratic agenda that have been blocked by President Bush and the Republicans. Obama himself said as much when discussing why he was going to oppose the only slightly weaker Central America Free Trade Agreement, telling workers that because the government was doing nothing about health care or wages, he couldn't "look them in the eyes" and defend free trade.

So why is he giving in now, even as longtime free trader Hillary Clinton admits that NAFTA created big problems and John Edwards calls for the wholesale renegotiation of trade agreements (though neither has made their position on the Peru FTA clear).

Well, Obama has made a pattern of accommodation and capitulation ever since he got to the Senate - and, as a result, keeps getting rolled. He voted for President Bush's class action bill that made it harder for victims of pollution and other corporate malfeasance to be compensated, voted for President Bush's 2005 energy bill that included massive oil, coal, and nuclear subsidies, and voted to allow credit card companies to raise interest rates over 30 percent - all the while getting no help from Republicans in passing the Democratic agenda.

That's why it's hard for me to get excited about Obama's admittedly ambitious climate and energy plan or his plan to end the war. Having lofty goals is great, but those goals will be meaningless without the stiff spine needed to achieve them. And I also worry what his chutzpah deficit says about Obama's ability to win in 2008: if he gets rolled when bargaining with Republicans legislatively, what will happen when he faces the Republican machine in the general election? What's more, what will happen when he's facing the Chinese, Russians, or Iranians at the negotiating table?

Democrats and Americans need someone with a big heart and a stiff spine for president - and thus far Barack Obama is clearly not meeting that standard.

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Soooooo Glad to see you here! (0.00 / 0)
Congratulations on great new opportunity, noone deserves it more.

On the piece, it's not the first time I've been disapointed by policy vs. what I almost hesitate to term 'rhetoric'....

Seems to fall in line with a lot of other issues that have come up with him.

Hope to see you a lot more on here...

You best hope that Ol' Icebergslim and his posse... (4.00 / 1)
....don't git wind of this. I linked to a Sirota post about this very issue and was troll rated. Yep, telling the truth about a candidate at OrangeLand now gets you to be a troll.

In all fairness I was de-trolled fairly soon but also in all fairness the comments my linked comment elicited were filled with rage, profanity and ad hominem attacks.

I have to think that the real Obama is slowly emerging from the hype and further, that the RWAs which infest his supporters online are having great difficulty dealing with same.

Let me be clear, without the use of derogatory language or personal slurs, Senator Obama is running a classic campaign of which the most salient feature is his attempt to conceal his policy stance on issues, NAFTA and CAFTA are merely the most easliy seen, that affect most Americans in a highly negative way. His PP 'Chips are down' score of 82.12 is not the stuff of which progressive presidents are made.

His habit of ducking out on abstaining on critical votes Re: FISA and MoveOn show he's no FDR.

In short, I think he's the last, the very last, guy progressives should be getting behind because of what he has demonstrated as to the 'Third P' of politics.


Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

I don't know much about this bill, but (4.00 / 1)
it's my understanding that the AFL-CIO is neutral on it since it was strengthened. Therefore, I'm not sure why supporting it makes Obama a bad negotiator or constitutes "giving in" or "getting rolled."  Maybe he thinks it's  a good bill - like I said I really don't know much about it. I could certainly present a lot of evidence to counter the argument you're making (like the von Sparkowsky hold, for example).

In general, I find character attacks on our candidates really problematic.

So The AFL-CIO Got Rolled First! (4.00 / 2)
That's very encouraging!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
That's funny! You (4.00 / 1)
may well be right. As I said, I don't know much about the bill. Maybe the AFL-CIO did get rolled. They're not perfect either.

[ Parent ]
Not perfect? (4.00 / 3)

  I'd settle for competent.

  The whole purpose of labor unions is to, er, represent labor's interests.

  Would be nice to see the AFL-CIO get on that.

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
I think that the point (0.00 / 0)
is less about whether or not this is a good bill, or whether Obama thinks that it's a good bill, than his being willing to hand it to Bush without getting something in return first--and not a vague promise, but a firm committment. All the carrots in the world are useless if they're handed out BEFORE negotiations begin.

Or, to put it another way, in politics, nice guys DO finish last--if they're unconditionally nice. And since he can't possibly be stupid enough to not get all this, I have to wonder why he does it anyway. Lazy? Spineless? Asleep at the wheel?

It's almost like Hillary invited all the candidates to a meeting and she assigned them all "roles". "John--you're the pretty one. Barack--you're the inspirational one. Bill--you're the bumbling one. Gravel--you're the bizarro conscience one. Dennis--you're the Martian. Just remember, I win this, you all get rewarded in '09. Now go to it!".

Apologies to Biden and Dodd.

And Al, just run already.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
Suggestions (0.00 / 0)
Possibly Biden is the 'serious' candidate. Don't know about Dodd, maybe the 'worthy' one.

Jokes aside, it really is astonishing how reluctant Democratic leaders are to actually try and get concessions from Bush.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Here's my point. (0.00 / 0)
Trade with Peru or letting black people vote?

He took a stand on one but not the other. That's not unconditional niceness - that's having different priorities than the diarist would like. Personally I care much more about the latter, but I don't go around calling people wusses or um, racists, if they choose to take a stand on the former but not the latter.

Also, this bill was just renegotiated, and improved enough that the AFL-CIO dropped their opposition. If Obama supports the new bill, why shouldn't he say so?

[ Parent ]
He took a stand on trade with Peru, as well. (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Votes are not like indulgences (4.00 / 1)
One good vote does not redeem a bad vote.
Peruvian farmers who constitute a third of the country will be devastated like the Mexican farmers were.  Then they will resort to growing coca for cocaine.  Then we get more violence.  Then Blackwater gets the job fighting the farmers.  Perpetual war.

[ Parent ]
Um. (0.00 / 0)
No one said it did.

And as you may or may not have noticed, this diary is actually not about whether the bill is a good bill or not. Hence the diary title. As I said (MULTIPLE TIMES) I haven't had a chance to review the bill. If this diary was about the bill and why it wasn't good, and therefore it wouldn't be good to support it, I would have no problem with it. But it is not. It is about Senator Obama as a person. It argues that he is a bad negotiator who will sell out "progressives" (whatever the fuck that means) based almost solely on his position on this issue. Progressive is actually a contested term, and I was merely providing some evidence about Obama standing up for MY VERSION of progressive values that this diary (which, again, attempts to make a grand generalization about Senator Obama as a person) omitted.

[ Parent ]
I'm sorry, I don't mean to be grumpy (0.00 / 0)
with you. I'm both quite sick and completely fed up with character attacks in the primaries. But neither of those are your fault.

[ Parent ]
And here's my point (0.00 / 0)
Whatever your reasons for supporting a bill or whether or not it's a good bill, for god's sakes, don't just give it away without getting something in return. All the principle in the world is useless if you don't know how to negotiate with and for it. I.e. politicians must be calculating ALWAYS, even when it's about matters that they genuinely care about. Done smartly, nothing is lost, and much can be gained. It might seem "cold", but it's how you accumulate political power and get things done. No one's arguing against the specifics or motives of what he tried to accomplish here. It's HOW he tried to accomplish this that is the issue.

I have the same problem with Feingold. He's clearly very principled and courageous, but he's proven to be a rather ineffective politician in terms of building coalitions and getting things done. His resolutions invariably get minimal support, and no one pays any attention to him but well-informed progressives. To the leadership, he's basically invisible, like Tom Harken, or Chuck Hagel on the other side of the aisle. The point is that the "good guys" seem to not know how or be willing to engage in smart politics, and get little done. Wasted opportunities.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
Obama Is The Change Candidate (4.00 / 2)
In the big picture, it's clear that Obama represents change.  This week, however, it seems that Hillary took Michigan & Florida & Obama is competing in Peru.

Sadly ... (0.00 / 0)
I've been fighting this verdict for a long time, but this is the final straw. Obama is not worthy of my support under the current circumstances. Either he doesn't take a clear position at all or he takes the wrong position, as with this harmful trade deal. He now joins Hillary Clinton in that "unsupportable" camp. I have to look myself in the mirror after I vote.

Soul of a Legislator (4.00 / 2)
One of my issues with Obama is that he seems to be too much of a legislator by temperment.  He likes making collegial deals, and splitting differences, not pressing the envelope.  This is a perfect example, he looks at this one issue from a tactical issue by issue perspective, not really strategically.

Do you think... (0.00 / 0)
David Broder is advising the Obama campaign?

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

Obama is conflicted (0.00 / 0)
He has a natural tendency towards conservatism as when he says in his book that he "understood the appeal of Reagan" and that it was like the appeal of the military bases in Hawaii when he was a boy "with their tidy streets and well-oiled machinery, the crisp uniforms and crisper salutes".

Institutions, order, rules of the club all have appeal.  So does the passion and moral assurance of a Martin Luther King or his own minister, Dr. Jeremiah Wright.

I agree with the commenter who said that there seems to be no overall strategy, but rather tactical moves.

Obama is still finding his passion.  He needs more time.  But we and the planet don't have time.



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